Where To Start With... Billy Ocean
A regular fixture in the charts on both sides of Atlantic throughout the 1970s and 80s, Billy Ocean holds the distinction of being the biggest-selling black British artist of all time, with some 30 million albums sold around the world and a string of hits to his name, most of which came at the peak of the singer's popularity in the 1980s.
Born Leslie Sebastian Charles in Trinidad, Ocean grew up in Romford and was working towards a successful career as a tailor on London's famed Savile Row when he was discovered playing at the city's clubs and encouraged to sign a recording contract, releasing a handful of singles under his real name. Those early singles failed to make an impact on the charts, but the young singer's luck began to change after he changed his name, taking the name 'Ocean' from the east-end housing estate that he called home. The first single he released under his new stage name, 'Love Really Hurts Without You', was an instant hit and set him on the path to stardom, scoring hits both in the clubs and on the radio in the UK and the U.S.
A string of albums followed over the next decade and a half, but after 1993's Time To Move On the singer went on hiatus to concentrate on being around his family. It would be 16 years before his comeback album, 2009's Because I Love You and this week his return to music continues with Here You Are, a double-headed release featuring a set of 12 brand new recordings alongside a greatest hits compilation.
On the first part of Here You Are, Ocean delivers a set of cover versions including songs like Bob Marley's 'No Woman No Cry', Sam Cooke's 'You Send Me' and the Ella Fitzgerald hit 'Cry Me a River', but the title track is an original composition from Ocean himself and the companion disc features a collection of his biggest hits from the last 30 years.
With the new album arriving in stores today (Friday April 22nd), below we've picked out five key tracks as a handy guide for the uninitiated. You can also preview & purchase the album from our online store at the top-right of this page...
'Love Really Hurts Without You'
Billy Ocean's breakthrough hit, this Motown-inspired track was the launchpad for the career that followed and although it's stylistically quite different from most of his other hits, that voice is unmistakable. If you've never danced to this song, you've never been to a wedding...
'Are You Ready'
Still one of the funkiest things he ever did, this cut from his 1981 album Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down) wouldn't be amiss on an album like Off The Wall. Packed with fizzing brass and funky guitar licks, this is proper dancefloor gold.
'When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going'
By the mid-1980s Billy Ocean was shifting serious numbers of albums and it's thanks largely to tunes like this, still one of his biggest hits and one that remains a live favourite. The track was included on the soundtrack for Robert Zemeckis' 1984 film Romancing the Stone and the music video features Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito returning the favour by providing backing vocals and some fairly embarrassing dance moves...
'Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car'
Another of Ocean's best-known hits, this track featured on his 1988 album Tear Down These Walls and was produced by legendary hit-maker Robert 'Mutt' Lange, the mastermind behind some of the decade's biggest records. The song topped the Billboard charts and was the last time Billy Ocean scored a Number One hit in the U.S.
We've saved the best until last here and we could talk about how 'Loverboy' was sampled by Justice for their track 'Helix', or the fact that it was only kept from the Number One spot in America by Wham!'s 'Careless Whisper', but all of that would be taking attention away from the video. Put simply, it is one of the weirdest things you'll ever see – and we don't say this lightly. Most of it takes place on a set that resembles the cantina from the original Star Wars movie, with Ocean himself periodically appearing in a series of floating geometric shapes that make it seem as if Superman has imprisoned him in the Phantom Zone along with General Zod and his buddies. What any of this has to do with the song's lyrics is beyond us, and frankly we don't care because this a glorious piece of lunacy that could only have happened in the 80s.